Sam Staley’s latest entry in his Pirate of Panther Bay series is a swashbuckling pirate tale with a subtext of social criticism.
S.R. Staley, whose alternate holiday adventure, St Nic, Inc. I reviewed last year, is back with a new novel, this one the second in his series on female pirate Isabella. Tortuga Bay continues Isabella’s saga, this time putting her history as an escaped slave seeking justice for her fellow plantation workers. This desire to help others find freedom as she has done forces Isabella into making difficult decisions.
Isabella, who escaped slavery on a sugar cane plantation and learned the pirate trade in the first book in the series, finds herself on the run from the Spanish viceroy of the Caribbean. Complicating that danger is the fact that the man she is love with, Juan Carlos Santa Ana, is the Spanish officer charged with capturing her and seeing her brought to Viceroy Rodriquez who plans her execution.
Another complication in this already complicated scenario is Isabella’s friendship with her partner and mentor Jean-Michel and her pirate crew. Completing this set of complications that create a classic emotional triangle is a prophecy Isabella lives with that she is to be a deliverer of her fellow slaves.
Staley alternates the points of view of Isabella and Juan Carlos, a technique that allows him to build the novel’s suspense. The pursuit of Isabella and her men aboard their ship the Marée Rouge by Juan Carlos and the Spanish forces and the unrest fomented among Haiti’s slave population because of the American Revolution combine to present Isabella with the greatest dilemma a person of destiny (a role which Isabella, despite her misgivings, comes to believe is hers) must face. She must make choose. Does she sacrifice her relationship with Juan Carlos and her pirate crew, especially her mate Jean-Michel? Is that the price she must pay to liberate thousands of her fellow slaves?
It’s a thorny dilemma, and though Isabella is a young woman of strength, passion, courage and intelligence, she is also a person still recovering from the traumas of slave riots, the death of her mother, the death of a dear friend (the man who helped her become a pirate), and her own imprison and torture in the Hispaniola prison El Morro.
What Isabella decides and how that decision affects her life and future – and the lives and futures of her lover and her pirate friends and colleagues – is revealed in ways that will both satisfy the reader and make that reader look forward the next installment in this series. For those who would like their adventure and romance with a sense of social conscience, Sam Staley’s Tortuga Bay will offer them a worthy read.